Hearing Loss During COVID
Amplification through hearing aids is the most common treatment for hearing loss.
As restrictions are lifted and we are back in our communities, we may find we’re still struggling to communicate, even with hearing aids. People are wearing masks, respecting a 6 feet social distance and speaking through barriers. What is happening? The answer is quite simple but the explanation is a little more complicated.
Thirty percent of the English language is visible on the lips. Before you say, “I don’t read lips!” I encourage you to consider that you do. This is an unconscious task. If I were to visually show you “fan” and “pan” you would be able to see the difference. Visual cues are very important to speech comprehension.
Additionally, it is important to understand that a distance of more than 3-5 feet decreases our ability to identify some speech sounds. This is a limitation of sound travel. Certain sounds are created solely by air moving through the vocal system. There is no way to increase the volume of these sounds, even when we yell. When you consider this is the reality for people who do not have difficulty hearing, how much more difficult will this be with hearing loss.
When you add a barrier on top of a mask and distance, sound is further decreased. Sound is not audible or visible. So, what’s the solution? Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions. There are some things we can do to bear with each other while we learn to live with the restrictions.
1. Extend patience and kindness.
2. Be sure to wear your hearing aids! Not wearing hearing aids only makes it more difficult for both communicators.
3. Whenever possible employ gestures. Sign Language is an excellent form of communication; however, not many of us are fluent Sign Language. This does not mean that we cannot attempt to communicate in this manner. Give it a try.
4. Maintain good humor. Laughter can make a stressful situation more bearable. Be willing to laugh at yourself.
5. Be open to learning new ways you can improve your communication
There are many strategies that can be used to improve communication. Your ability to be a kind and considerate communicator will provide enjoyable social interactions and strengthen your connections with others.